MCA Supports Scientific Approach to Setting Catch Levels Backs Council Decision to Reduce Pollock Catch during Cyclic Downturn

The Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA), a coalition of harvesters, processors, and communities involved with Alaska groundfish and crab including the Bering Sea pollock fishery, expressed support today for a decision by federal fishery managers to reduce the Bering Sea pollock catch to 1 million metric tons in 2008.

The 26 percent reduction, down from 2007’s catch of 1.35 million tons, was taken by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council as a precautionary measure to protect the pollock stock during a predicted downward trend.

“This cyclic downturn was not unexpected. The responsible course of action is to follow our scientists’ recommendation to reduce harvests as a precautionary measure,” said MCA executive director David Benton. “This has been the way we’ve done business in Alaska for over 30 years with the result that there are no overfished stocks.”

The action followed the recommendations by the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and Groundfish Plan Team and was based on recent stock assessment data including annual surveys of Bering Sea groundfish.  Those same surveys found indications that the pollock stock may see new recruitment over the next few years.

“We’ve known this downturn was coming because a large age class of fish that dominated the population was naturally getting older.  Fortunately, it seems a new age class may soon replace them,” Benton said.  “Preliminary indications are the recruitment of new pollock in 2006 was the largest in ten years.  That’s a positive sign but until it can be verified, we support the scientists’ view to err on the side of conservation.”

Bering Sea pollock is one of the world’s most abundant fisheries and accounts for a third of all fish harvested in the U.S.  Fluctuations in the catch level are not unusual.  Pollock catch limits were held below 1 million tons from 1977 to 1983.  More recently, the catch limit dropped to 980,000 tons in 1999 after which the fishery rebounded and produced record catches of almost 1.5 million tons from 2002 to 2006.

“Bering Sea pollock is one of the world’s most abundant fishery resources and is a dynamic population,” Benton said.  “Despite this cyclic trend, the pollock resource is still healthy and it will remain healthy as long as we continue to follow our scientists’ recommendations. That approach is why Alaska is respected around the globe as a model of fishery management.”

Based in Juneau, the Marine Conservation Alliance is a coalition of seafood processors, fishermen, coastal communities and support industries involved in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska groundfish and crab fisheries.  The MCA promotes science-based conservation measures to ensure sustainable fisheries in Alaska.  For more information, visit

• David Benton, MCA, 907-321-0499
• Dave Witherell, NPFMC Deputy Director, 907-271-2809
• Pat Livingston, Chair NPFMC Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), 206-526-4172
• Dr. Terry Quinn, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, SSC member, 907-796-2051
• Dr. Doug DeMaster, Science and Research Director, Alaska Fishery Science Center,

Bering Sea Pollock Fact Sheet
in metric tons

Eastern Bering Sea pollock biomass    4,360,000
Calculated allowable harvest level for 2008   1,170,000
Recommended Total Allowable Catch in 2008  1,000,000
Total Allowable Catch in 2007    1,394,000
Actual Harvest in 2007      1,350,530
Total US Seafood landings in 2006    4,304,000
Alaska Pollock as a Percentage of US landings in 2006            35%

Sources: Draft NPFMC Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Report; US Department of Commerce Fisheries of the United States 2006